← Back

White skin matters.

Desis are mad racist.

The first time I met a white person was in Abu Dhabi, when I was 12 years old. My dad had invited an American business partner over for dinner. I remember him being loud and friendly.

I learned much later the real reason behind this gentleman’s visit. My dad was pitching a new project to the local Emiratis. My dad owned his company, but he needed this white American man to be the face of his company because it significantly increased the chances of the project getting funded.

Back then in UAE, your ethnicity/race defined your social class and the associated prejudices. It was how the world worked. I saw discrimination affecting not only relations between groups, but also interactions within them.

My desi (south asian) people discriminate heavily based on skin color. Having lighter skin increased your value in society.

I grew up on 90s Bollywood, where all the stars were light skinned. Light was beautiful. These stars reinforced colorism in the masses by promoting skin lightening products like “Fair and Lovely.” My favorite piece of Bollywood trivia is the actor Vivek Oberoi darkening his skin for the movie “Company.” He was considered too light skinned to play a gangster from the slums of Mumbai. (Excellent movie btw).

For my parents’ generation, lightness of the skin was sacred: “don’t drink chai, you’ll get darker”, “don’t stay out in the sun, you’ll get darker.” Aunties were particularly vicious in their remarks about dark skinned desis. Family members weren't spared either.

I had an arranged marriage. The process is similar to a job application. You applied to prospective partners using a biodata, which is basically a resume that also included family details. The first two words in the 'About me' section were literally: “Fair complexion.” My parents led with my skin tone instead of my character and accomplishments. I found it amusing at the time. I find it messed up now.

I don’t blame my parents’ generation for colorism. They’re a product of colonialism, where lighter skin afforded better opportunities. My dad recognized that the color of his skin cheapened his voice.

When I moved to the US, I learned that this was called “racism.”

The best thing about America is the freedom to question the status quo. I can keep talking about colonialism's continued grip on our lives. But I'll end with this:

Recognizing the problem is the first step towards solving it. Use your privilege to speak out for those who don't have it.

P.S. Let’s stop using the term “dark patterns” to describe deceptive UX practices. Using “dark” or “black” as value judgements are colorist and anti-Black. Use “dark” and “light” only as visual descriptors. So “dark mode” is OK.

I tweaked this on Wed Jun 05 2024 00:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)